Turns out that Razer's Blade laptop – the one which promised to save PC gaming a while back – is more than just a concept device. It's been launched Stateside already and Anandtech has a review of it over here .
Unfortunately I won't be able to report my thoughts about the Blade, because Razer has told us that it won't be releasing the machine in Europe. For the time being, those of us on the east of the big sea will either have to emigrate or watch disconsolately as PC gaming dies out in our lands.
All joking aside, it is a shame that the Blade won't be heading this way. For a 17inch laptop it's very thin – lighter even than the equivalent MacBook Pro . At $2,800 it's also very pricey, mind you, moreso than the same Apple machine. You don't get a lot of gaming power for that either: there's just a low end GeForce GT 555M driving the graphics.
The appeal of the Blade, however, is the multitouch LCD panel and set of macro keys with individual displays that take up the space where the number pad used to be. These can display game specific readouts or action icons, as well as Windows stuff like performance details and softkeys. Anandtech reports some instability with the panel at the moment, but on the whole it works.
The downside of that screen is that it requires Razer's Synapse driver suite to run, which requires online registration just to use. That's just intrusive and amounts to little more than driver DRM as far as I can see.
On the other hand, I do still quite like the idea of the Blade, at least. It's easy to laugh at now because of its cost and the hubristic claims around its launch, but give it a couple of revisions and it might well become the obvious choice for a gaming laptop. Now is exactly the right time to be experimenting with multitouch controls in PC games, given the relative ubiquity of smartphones and tablets. The more experimentation with controller enhancements like this, the better.
An upgrade to Ivy Bridge graphics and an NVIDIA Kepler GPU – both of which have already been seen in the wild – will surely help too, and there seems little reason to buy the first generation Blade when it will be outdated in just a few weeks. Give it that upgrade and a bit of a price cut and Europe really might end up missing out.